State notes ‘exceptional’ Slope snow levels this early in season
Click here to go to the full PDF version of this issue, with any maps, photos or other artwork that appears in
some of the articles.
In its most recent North Slope off-road travel status report, issued Nov. 23, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Mining, Land and Water, said all tundra opening areas on the Slope remain closed.
The most recent assessment of snow conditions and soil temperatures was done Nov. 18 through Nov. 21 for state-owned land and none of the monitoring stations met requirements for opening.
However, the division noted that snow depths are “exceptional” for this early in the season and provided a graph comparing snow depths for this period with the three most recent years.
Both snow depth and subsurface temperature requirements must be met for tundra openings.
None of the monitoring stations have met the subsurface temperature requirement of a soil temperature of minus 5 degrees C at a depth of 30 centimeters. The division said most stations are reporting 0 degrees at that depth, although temperatures have fallen slightly since the previous week.
Snow depth is another matter.
All stations but one met snow depth requirements - and that station missed by only a quarter of an inch.
Coastal areas require a snow depth of 6 inches: the average depth is 11.05 inches for eastern coastal areas and 12.6 inches for western coastal areas.
The snow depth requirement for the foothills area is 9 inches of snow and the average depth in the lower foothills was 11.74 inches and the average depth in the upper foothills was 11.02 inches, the division said.
The division said that due to the exceptional snow conditions it “strongly recommends that any operator planning to construct snow and ice roads begin prepacking operations as soon as possible,” as the deep snow can insulate the tundra and push back travel opening.
Prepacking will help drive subsoil temperatures down and also help stabilize the snowpack, preventing wind from moving the snow.
Prepacking requests can be sent to [email protected] for approval.
- KRISTEN NELSON